Science,  Space

A Week in Space and Science 17 August – 23 August 2020

Many people liked last week’s summary so here is the next one. I know I’m a bit late but Exames take up a lot of my time.

Summary of a week in space and science

Here is a quick summary of the six topics I am featuring this week.


  • First-ever observation of “time crystals” interacting. Breakthrough in quantum information processing.
  • A pumice raft containing millions of small volcanic rocks has reached Australias Coral reefs.
  • Exploding stars may have caused mass extinction on Earth, study shows.
  • Widespread electric vehicle adoption would save billions of dollars, thousands of lives.
  • Record melt: Greenland lost 532 billion metric tons of ice in 2019
  • Rogue planets could outnumber the stars. A new telescope is preparing to find out the truth.

First-ever observation of "time crystals" interacting.

TIme cristal refrigirator
Fig 1: The rotating "time cristal" refrigerator at Aalto University. Credit: Aalto University/Mikko Raskinen

This observation means a huge leap in quantum processing. But what are time crystals? Time crystals are a state of matter that repeats in time as well as in space. Sadly not a movie like crystal that helps us travel back and forth in time. These Crystals are different from ordinary rocks that are composed of regularly repeating patterns of atoms in space. Time crystals on the other hand exhibit the bizarre property of being in constant, repeating motion in time despite no external input. Their atoms are constantly oscillating, spinning, or moving first in one direction, and then the other.

The discovery of two crystals interacting was published in Nature Materials. Dr. Samuli Autti, the lead author from Lancaster University, said: “Controlling the interaction of two-time crystals is a major achievement. Before this, nobody had observed two-time crystals in the same system, let alone seen them interact”. The researchers used Helium-3 which is a rare isotope of helium missing one neutron. They cooled the Helium down to an incredible 0.0001 K or 275.15 C.

These times Crystals have huge potential. They could improve timekeeping resulting in improved GPS.


A massive pumice raft containing millions of volcanic rocks arrives in Australia.

Pumice raft 2019
Fig 2: Picture of pumice raft near VaVa´u. Credit: Shannon Lenz

A massive fleet of volcanic rocks has reached the coast of Australia. This group of floating rocks is called a pumice raft and occurs when an underwater volcano erupts in just the right way. This pumice originally stretched over 105 square kilometers but has by now stretched out over 1300 kilometers. Currently, these rocks can be found all the way along the Australian Coast from Queensland´s north to northern New South Wales.

But this event is not another 2020 catastrophe. It actually serves a greater purpose. These rocks are full of minerals and along the way picked up lots of marine organisms. These include algae, coral, and more. Now all these tiny hitchhikers help give the Australian coral reefs a much-needed boost.

But these rocks can also be hazardous. As you can see in the first picture they can create massive slicks that can damage boats or smother whole coastlines.


Credit: Sciencealert

How pumice rafts form
Fig 3: How Pumice raft form. Credit: UC Berkeley

Exploding stars may have caused mass extinction on Earth, study shows.

Exploding star
Fig 4: A team of researchers led by professor Brian Fields hypothesizes that a supernova about 65 light-years away may have contributed to the ozone depletion and subsequent mass extinction of the late Devonian Period, 359 million years ago. Pictured is a simulation of a nearby supernova colliding with and compressing the solar wind. Earth's orbit, the blue dashed circle, and the Sun, red dot, are shown for scale. Credit: Jesse Miller

A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences talks about how a supernova in a distant star system might have initiated a mass extinction here on earth. The researchers studied rocks that captured these rays.  

This astronomical event might be responsible for an extinction event 359 million years ago. At the boundary between the Devonian and Carboniferous periods. 


Check out for more information

Widespread electric vehicle adoption would save billions of dollars, thousands of lives

Electric car
Fig 5: Image of a nondescript electric car. Credit: greentechmedia

A recent study by Northwestern University (US) studied how electric car usage would impact the economy. The study was published in GeoHealth.

The researchers first looked at a situation where Electric Vehicles (EVs) would replace 25% of combustion-engine cars currently on the road. In such a situation approximately $17 billion could be saved annually. That is in avoiding damages caused by resulting climate change and even more dramatic air pollution and the resulting health costs.

Would EVs replace 75% of all cars and would the US increase their renewable energy pollution, savings could reach as much as $70 billion annually.

For more information visit

Record melt: Greenland lost 532 billion metric tons of ice in 2019

Greenland melting
Fig 6: In this Aug. 16, 2019 file photo, a woman stands next to an antenna at an NYU base camp at the Helheim glacier in Greenland. According to a study released on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, Greenland lost a record amount of ice during an extra warm 2019, with the melt massive enough to cover California in more than four feet (1.25 meters) of water. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

2019 was a record year for Greenland. And not in a good way. During one year Greenland lost 532 billion metric tons of ice. To put that in perspective that’s enough water to cover California in 1.25 meters of water. Of seen globally it caused the global sea level to rise 1.5 millimeters. Think about that for a second. Think about how much water you would need to rise your next-door lake 1.5 millimeters. A fuck load of buckets I can tell you that.

“Not only is the Greenland ice sheet melting, but it’s melting at a faster and faster pace,” said study lead author Ingo Sasgen, a geoscientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. Soon we will arrive at a point where It will be almost impossible to stop that melting. We should all think about that for a while.

If you would like to read more visit

Rogue planets could outnumber the stars. A new telescope is preparing to find out the truth.

Rogue planet telescope
Fig 7: High-resolution illustration of the Roman spacecraft against a starry background. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

A study published in the Astronomical Journal says that the number of rogue planets, that is planets with no host star. Could outnumber the number of stars. The study used an upcoming NASA telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope as its subject. The researchers calculated, that the telescope could find hundreds of rogue planets in the Milky Way. That does not sound like much but considering that these planets are completely dark, like everything else that will be quite the accomplishment.

The telescope will use gravitational lensing as a tool to find these rogue planets. When an unseen rogue planet passes in front of a more distant star from our vantage point, light from the star bends as it passes through the warped space-time around the planet. The planet acts as a cosmic magnifying glass, amplifying the brightness of the background star.

For more detailed information please visit 


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